Stories Connect Us
When I was in school I used to dream about becoming a writer or a comedienne. And when I dreamed, I always imagined that getting there wouldn't be hard. That's one of the excellent things about dreams -- we bypass the pain, the diet, the hard work, and jump to the good part where the whole world is waiting for us.
I see a dream as a kind of seed. But seeds won't grow if you keep them in your hand -- they've got to be planted. Planting is a strange system -- nothing seems to happen at first. You've got to wait. I'm not good at waiting. But watch a grower and you'll learn the secret -- waiting involves work -- watering the seeds, pulling the weeds, adding fertilizer. In my novel, Squashed, Ellie Morgan talks to her pumpkin seeds. Growers invented patience. I sure need more of it, but I've learning that getting things right takes time, achieving dreams requires discipline, and hard work leaves a gift.
Have you ever seen a baby chick trying to peck it's way out of an egg?
The process is grim. The chick is wet, ugly, and totally stressed. It emits this pitiful cheep that makes me want to pick it up and dry it off. It's got eggshell stuck to its body; it's trying to shake the shell off and not keel over. I want an 800 number to call where there's a chicken therapist who can talk the bird through this ordeal. But I don't move. I watch. I know that baby chick is getting strong through the fight.
And that's what happens to us a bit. These sad, unfair, frightening, discouraging, impossibly hard things come at us -- if we let them, if we keep working to peck our way out, they can help to make us stronger.
What I try to do in my novels is create characters who are pecking out of hard shells. I use humor to help them through. I pull from experiences I had, feelings I remember. You might never have grown a giant pumpkin (Squashed); been visited by an irritated cupid (Thwonk); been a pool ace and had to face down the local bully (Sticks); been in crisis with your alcoholic dad and driven a crabby old woman down to Texas (Rules of the Road); tried to find your hermit aunt on a mountain in the middle of winter (Backwater); been a teenage waitress just moved to a dinky dairy town where the politics are messy but the hope won't die (Hope Was Here); been a too tall seventh grader struggling through your parents' divorce while everything gets thrown at you in one long year (Stand Tall); blown the whistle on corporate corruption (Best Foot Forward); tried to find the truth behind the mystery of a haunted house (Peeled) -- but I hope you'll see some of yourselves in the lives of my characters.
Stories help us remember that we're all in this struggle together.